Coalition jets back Turkish army op in Syria
WASHINGTON - Jets with the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group backed a Turkish army operation near Al-Bab in Syria last week but did not use weapons, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
The coalition's military support mission suggests warming ties between the two partners.
"Last week, there was a request... when some Turkish forces came under fire for air support and there were flights conducted by the coalition at that time," said Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook.
"My understanding of that was there was not a strike specifically, but there were aircraft involved in that effort, a visible show of force if you will, by coalition aircraft."
Turkish forces have been engaged for several weeks in deadly fighting against the Islamic State group to retake the city.
But despite Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's requests, coalition planes had previously refused to directly help the Turks.
The coalition criticizes Turkey for launching the offensive unilaterally without first reaching an agreement with its partners.
"We continue to talk with the government of Turkey about the appropriate level of support for the efforts there in Al-Bab and that's an ongoing conversations, even happening today," Cook stressed.
The Americans supported the first part of the Turkish offensive in Syria in mid-2016. But they are concerned that the Turks, after the conquest of Al-Bab, might attack the Kurdish-led Arab-Kurdish coalition of the Syrian Democratic Forces.
The United States sees the SDF as their most effective ally in the fight against IS in Syria. The SDF is currently leading the first part of the offensive against Raqa, the self-proclaimed IS capital in Syria.
While the coalition did not strike at Al-Bab to help the Turks, the Russians did not hold back, bombing IS targets in the city.